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It’s an infection caused by bacteria. If it’s not treated, it can be very serious… leading to heart disease, brain damage, blindness and even death.

Warning! The following images show detailed and graphic images of STI’s.

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How do I know if I’ve got it?

1st stage

  • Symptoms appear 2 – 6 weeks after being infected.
  • Small sores (chancre) that may be seen on the mouth, penis, vagina, breasts, hands that last 1-5 weeks. This is usually around the genitals where the infection has entered the body.They don’t hurt and are often so small you may not even notice them. They may even be inside the body where you can’t see them.
  • The bacteria spreads from the sores of the infected person into the skin of an uninfected person

2nd stage

  • Symptoms appear 3 – 6 weeks after initial sore heals.
  • The sores will eventually heal by themselves within 2-6 weeks. But although they may disappear the bacteria that caused them will still be alive and will move into your bloodstream.
  • You may notice a non-itchy rash on body which is highly infectious.
  • You may get Flu-like symptoms; fever, headache, sore throat, swollen glands.
  • If left untreated, it can lead to serious damage to the heart, brain, joints, bones, eyes and nervous system, resulting in blindness, paralysis, mental illness and heart disease.

How do you get it?

You can get syphilis if you have unprotected sex with someone who is infected. Syphilis sores and the rash are very infectious so you may also get the infection from close body contact. You can also get syphilis if you have anal sex or share sex toys (e.g. a vibrator) that haven’t been washed or covered with a condom with someone who has syphilis. An infected mother could also pass it to her unborn child.

Can I get rid of it?

Yes, it can be cured by antibiotics from the GUM Clinic or you doctor but it must be treated quickly.

The good news is, all stages of syphilis can be successfully treated with antibiotics from your GP or GUM Clinic. If left untreated, however, syphilis can seriously damage your health long term. If your sexual partner is diagnosed with syphilis, you will be offered treatment whether or not you show any signs of infection. Once treated, it will only come back if you have unprotected sex with an infected person.


Rashes, sores, burning, smelling, itching and generally feeling unwell are some symptoms that you may have an STI. BUT most people don’t have any signs or symptoms that they have an STI so always get checked!

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